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The state of independent studies at post-Wainstein UNC

Kenneth Janken is a professor and the director of undergraduate studies for UNC’s Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies. He said he thinks he took the director position in fall 2011 and he does not recall approving any independent studies since assuming that position.

He said he didn’t want to speculate whether the lack of requests for independent studies has to do with the scandal.

“I’ve not talked to anybody who has said to me I’m not taking independent studies with you because ‘whatever’ — I’ve not had this discussion with any student,” Janken said.

Alan Jones, a biology professor, said the new rules and regulations that have been put in place are changing the process of how an independent study operates.

“The final reports are now read by another faculty member than the mentor,” he said in an email. “Someone else in consultation with the mentoring professor assigns the grades.”

He said he thinks the Wainstein report affects all departments across campus.

“It will make our jobs a little harder. But most importantly, it will create great resentment. Those of us who work hard to train, teach UNC students are now assumed to be a source of the problem or have the potential to be like the few professors and counselors that created this problem,” Jones said.

Asa Kelly, a senior biology and African, African American and Diaspora Studies double major, said she took an undergraduate research seminar in the AAAD department.

“In addition to it being required for graduation, I was interested in utilizing everything I’ve learned over the course of my three years,” she said.

Kelly said she could understand if students were hesitant to take AAAD courses, but she encourages any unsure students to take a class in the department.

“I’m sure there is some hesitation, but I’m engaged in that class, and I’ve never gotten an easy grade,” she said. “And I’ve always worked for my grade. I think that class is challenging just like any other class at Carolina.”

But she said she doesn’t think she has any friends in the department that have taken an independent studies course.

Despite new rules and possible resentment, Jones believes independent studies courses and independent research projects are important.

“It’s the main reason for being at a Research I institution versus a small college or a large one not as famous as UNC,” he said. “Independent studies provide the opportunity to the student to actually discover under the guidance of a world-class scientist.”

Kelly also said she thinks the department will continue to offer independent studies courses, despite the scandal.

“We are a research University, so how can you take away a research aspect of a department?” she said.

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